Arts organisations in Britain’s second city are locked in talks with municipal leaders after plans to cut £3.5 million in cultural funding over the next four years were leaked to the press. Among those who stand to lose most are the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the roof company that runs the award-winning Symphony Hall.
Arts companies across Britain are already coping with 15-30 percent cuts in central Arts Council funding. The Birmingham leak launches a second wave of cuts. The official position is that the plan is just one of many options being considered. Privately, councillors are sympathetic to the orchestra, which – through Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons – has become the city’s hunter-gatherer of international prestige and global business.
But Birmingham has yet to work out whether, like the Royal Navy, it can afford a flagship (or whether it might share one with the French). Hair is being pulled out in clumps today around the country. Local funding is the ultimate lifeline for regional ensembles. Birmingham’s decision is, in many ways, more crucial to the future of British arts down the next decade than anything laid down in Central London.
Here’s hoping that good sense and enlightened self-interest will prevail.